Stacking PS3 Review

February 28, 2011 by  
Filed under PlayStation 3, Features, Reviews

Publisher – THQ – Developer – Double Fine Productions – Genre – Puzzle – Players – 1 – Age Rating – 7+ – Other console/handheld formats – Xbox 360

The concept of Russian dolls is something that always had the potential to work as a component within a game, although, try as I might, I just couldn’t think of many games that employ their use. Double Fine’s Stacking certainly feels fresh and unique, and the likes of PSN and Xbox Live Arcade should certainly be appreciated, as without those games like this just would no longer exist on consoles.

The setting of Stacking is inspired by the Depression as well as Victorian England. Obviously, it’s a tough time and little Charlie Blackmore (the smallest doll of the Blackmore family) is in for a shock as his dad goes missing and the rest of his family are forced into slave labour to pay off a debt. As Charlie your job is to put an end to all of this – saving the family and putting an end to child labour and the dastardly Baron. There’s a playful attitude running throughout, making grim times seem all the happier because of it, and the story is told in a manner that brings to mind early silent films.

Finding and reuniting a set of dolls is another thing that adds to the lifespan.

What’s initially striking about Stacking are the visuals. The game has a rather washed out look and the dolls inhabiting the world are shiny in appearance and really look as if they have had their features painted on. The animations are comical, the world feels alive with wobbling dolls, and the entire game has a charm all of its own – entirely unique and visually attractive best describes the look we have here.

At its lively heart, Stacking is a puzzle game. It’s with little surprise to learn that the game is all about stacking Russian dolls, beginning small and increasing as you jump into the next size up. Starting the game as little Charlie, it’s not long until you leap inside a larger doll, then a larger one, and then an even bigger one and so on, with it being possible to downsize to smaller dolls as well. Dolls not only differ in size but they also have their own abilities, some pass wind, some push their way through crowds, some play musical instruments, whilst others pick out unique dolls, tap dance and carry out maintenance. The latter are only a few examples.

While some of the dolls abilities are only there for fun, others are important to solving puzzles. So, the puzzles? These are largely simple to work out which will please those who don’t like them too taxing as well as the younger player, although each puzzle has more than one solution and some of these can be fairly tough to find. The game certainly gives encouragement for you to complete as many solutions as you can, but the good thing is that in no way is it a requisite: if you solve a puzzle and want to move on to the next one, then you can do that, likewise if you want to come back and try some of the alternative solutions later on, you can do that too. It’s certainly a lot of fun just to wander around and experiment, in fact it’s really quite relaxing and the world that Double Fine have created is wonderfully lively.

Sticking with puzzles, Stacking also doesn’t require you to seek help from the internet when you’re stuck – a hints system allows you to get three hints for each puzzle, although hint is too weak of a word for some of them, being that often tell you exactly what to do. If at all possible, don’t be weak and give in to resorting to these hints, it’s certainly all the more satisfying to come up with the solutions yourself.

Stacking or unstacking is more fun than it has any right to be.

Stacking is a short game that can be completed in a matter of no time, but those who like bleeding the additional content of a game dry and hitting the always satisfying 100% will not only be looking for all the puzzle solutions, there’s also unique dolls (around 100 in all) to find and Hi-jinks to complete. The Hi-jinks allow you to have a lot of fun on the side, often involving unfortunate other dolls: you can slap around mime dolls, find all the nests inside bird dolls, throw sheets over the heads of smaller dolls and more, with clues often being in the title of your list of current Hi-jinks. All this child-like activity is certainly all very in keeping with the playful nature of the game.

Yes many of the puzzles may be too easy for some and the game is short, but Stacking is still well worth the money (£11.99 on PSN and 1200 Microsoft Points on Xbox Live Arcade), particularly if you stay away from the hints system and squeeze as much out of the game as you can for yourself. Such innovation should be encouraged for download games, and I just hope that this enjoyable, attractive and charming game has already been purchased and downloaded many times. It certainly deserves to enjoy all the success it can find.